Wednesday, September 30
As long as you're not hurting anyone or violating some universally recognized ethical standards and the law, or jeopardizing your bread and butter, the strange (by other people's standards) things you're accused of doing don't have to make sense to anyone but you! I seem to attract people (and family/friends) who feel the need to share motorcycle horror stories with me. Complete strangers come up to me and say some variant of the following: “I knew a guy who rode motorcycles for years and one day was killed just going to the store—so you could get really hurt or killed—it's dangerous out there.” Or, “I have a friend whose has been riding for 30 years and he finally gave it up because he was having close calls and too many of his friends were getting killed.” Why am I subject to this? I usually stand there, listen politely. I show with little or no affect. I don’t know how to look more disinterested. I refuse to engage the unsolicited advice beyond saying, “Thank you for sharing that.” But in my head I'm really saying, “I am sorry that you know people who have been killed on a motorcycle and that's why you want me to find another hobby. When people are involved in car accidents do you tell them to stop driving, or hit by cars as pedestrians, do you tell them to stop walking and to find another hobby? I bet not. I know you mean well but you are not being helpful. I find you annoying.” Of course, I never say this.
So, today I have at least three things pressing on my mind that prompted this little screed. Read it in good humor--but I'm serious about every word!
Screed #1: Here is my response to all those who feel an urgent need to tell me, “you shouldn't ride alone. It's dangerous.” Breathing is dangerous too but I do it. I ride solo. I prefer it. I ride to be alone. I know the risks. I accept the risks. Riding with someone, anyone, on a regular basis would cause me to quit riding. I see no fun in riding with others. I know lots of people have tons of fun riding with others. I think that's just great. For them. It's not for me. When I ride it’s “all about me and the ride.” If that sounds “selfish,” so be it. I don't want to negotiate anything. Staying safe on the road is as much negotiating as I care to do. No, I don't need “the husband” or anyone to keep me safe. Yes, there are people out there who might want to assault me because I am a woman, alone, and a host of other attributes a nut case can use as an excuse to do me harm. I can't worry about that. According to statistics, I have more to fear from family members and friends than I do from strangers. So, family/friends I am on guard around all of you.
Actually, I can hide at home, rarely venturing out, and a stray bullet can come through the window and kill me. Thus, staying at home can be deadly! I can't and I won't live being afraid to come and go as I please. The focus, concentration, and the unadulterated fun of riding, for me, is disrupted when I have ridden with others. I am thinking, worrying, and negotiating with someone about when, where, and what the plans are. My bladder has a mind of its own and, like me on two wheels, does not play well with others. So, well-intentioned family/friends, stop it. You're wasting your time and you should know that by now. If I'm killed out there, you have my permission to say, “I told her so.” Now, won't that make you feel better knowing you were right? (Disclaimer: to all those I have had occasion to ride with, it has been fun because it has been so rare that I can enjoy it knowing that it will probably never be repeated).
Screed#2: I happily ride to Wisconsin to get the warranty work done on my Beemer rather than taking it to the “local” dealership. I bought it from a BMW dealer 25 minutes and less than 20 miles from my residence. It's the second bike purchased from the nearby dealership—I really like the sale manager and would not hesitate to purchase another bike from him. However, I will not ever get warranty work done there (well, I shouldn't say “not ever,” but it will be a hot day in Chicago in February before I do!). Therefore, I ride over 100 miles—one way--and nearly 2 hours in bad traffic (and the traffic from Chicago to Wisconsin is always bad) to get excellent service.
BTW, this dealership has free pick up and delivery from Chicago! I ride there instead because it is a great time to get some riding in. Negotiating the traffic, I believe, sharpens my riding and skills. Riding in hectic traffic is like riding in the rain. Some riders try to avoid riding in the rain. If you're on the road, you will inevitably encounter rain at some point. Granted, it's not an ideal riding situation but the only way to learn to ride in the rain, is to ride in the rain. I live where traffic is robust; therefore, it doesn't freak me out because I've learned to ride in it. It's a challenge and risk I accept. So, well-meaning family/friends, it's either Milwaukee or Iowa City for warranty work. And, while I like the option of the free pick up and delivery, I don't plan to use it. Now, for all my other shop needs and accessories I go to Motoworks Chicago, best shop in Chicago hands down!
As an aside, my day in Wisconsin was filled with great weather, sites and a super lunch at Beans & Barley. Took in some sites along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan. And, at 6:45 pm while heading back to Chicago, I watched my five month old baby turned 7000 miles old.
Screed#3 I am not yet an official card carrying member of the Iron Butt Association but I have done two Saddle Sores (1000 miles in less than 24 hours) that remain unofficial. And, as soon as I can find where I've filed the paperwork, I'm submitting both rides for certification. I hope there is no statute of limitation as I did both some years ago. In any case, another one is in the plans. I enjoy long distance riding because it is mind cleansing. I know this doesn't make sense to certain family/friends. I don't seek or expect your approval. For some motorcyclist these Iron Butt rides hold no appeal. That's okay. The Japanese have a saying similar to our “different strokes for different folks,” and it's じゅうにん、といろ(Juu-nin to iro), which means ten men, ten tastes. We’re all different. Again, it doesn't hurt anyone that I get up and ride to Indianapolis or down to St. Louis and come home the same day. My Saddle Sore #1 was from Chicago to Waverly, Nebraska and back. Saddle Sore #2 was a straight shot to Golden, Colorado. My return trip was leisurely.
I have no habits or addictions that I spend money on—if you don't count books, fountain pens, Leuchttrum 1917 notebooks, motorcycle wear, and farkles for my bike. I'm kind to people and animals. Taking long day trips is a minor indulgence with huge dividends. I'm always happier when I return. So let me be. BTW, if you're really really worried about these long distance day trips why haven't you come forward demanding that I take your money and get a hotel room on your dime? Uh? Not that I would accept the offer. I'm just saying...
Am I the only one? Are there things your well-meaning family/friends/strangers don't get about your motorcycling fervor?
Saturday, September 12
One week ago, I arrived home safe and sound. Enough time to reflect on the trip but not nearly enough time to thoroughly process all the experiences, and people I met along the way. I put nearly 6000 miles on Jesse Owens II. It’s now ready for its second service.
This is a quick note of thanks and appreciation for the kindness of strangers who helped restore my faith in humankind and who made the trip worry-free.
First, a thanks to all the enthusiastic strangers traveling in the opposite direction who took the time to wave clear across the interstate, highway or just across a neighborhood street. Too often I missed returning a wave because I simply wasn’t thinking about it or it had zipped passed me too quickly. Thanks.
Somewhere beyond a 1000 miles the threading on one my Sidi On Road Gore Tex boot ripped. When I arrived in Encinitas, CA, a dear friend took me to a shoe repair. I don’t know if it was chatting in Spanish with the proprietor that did it, but he charged me $20—a figure I know was a significant underpayment. He sewed the boot and returned them to me with a shine that would pass any Army’s inspection.
Thanks goes to David Brown’s Sport Center in Amarillo, TX. On a Rt. 66 jaunt, one of the fancy little Denali lights that I love broke from its housing. After stopping for gas, I noticed the light precariously dangling near the ground. The silver duct tape I brought along looked unsightly; it would advertise--rather loudly--a flaw in my new bike. Bought some black duct tape that concealed the damage until I reached David Brown’s Motorsports. I was assisted immediately and the light was adhered to the bike with flawless expertise. The young man who fixed the light, didn’t want payment. I had to nearly force him to take a tip for this help. That kind of service always surprises me—and it’s often a rare experience. I appreciate the kindness shown me at David Brown’s.
Then, there was my visit to “San Diego BMW Motorcycles: Your Gateway to Adventure.” I desired a simple check up before heading home, and I expected to pay a minimum of $100 for the peace of mind. After the check up, Brent Rackstein, the Service Manager, gave me his “A-Okay” on the bike. He waved off charging me and sent me on my way. I was more than a little surprised—it took time to go over the bike. Such thoughtfulness is always greatly appreciated, especially when you’re far from home and you’ve been on the road for weeks.
From the moment I walked in I felt welcomed; I felt understood; and, I witnessed how San Diego BMW Motorcycles truly lives up to its “Gateway to Adventure” tagline. I think I said it in another blog entry, but it bears repeating: If I lived anywhere in southern California, San Diego BMW Motorcycles would be my go-to shop for service and accessories—loved their selection of motorcycle wear. Oh, how I wish the BMW service shop nearest me had such interest in customer service. To get service similar to San Diego, I must travel 100 miles beyond Chicago to Milwaukee—it’s worth it. So, THANK YOU San Diego BMW Motorcycles for helping to make my “adventure” worry-free.
On the kindness of friends...
Japanese American National Museum…
Strange things said to me on the road…
Stopping in a Sundown Town…
World War II & the Eisenhower Library and Museum…
Wednesday, September 2
Tuesday's ride had highs and lows in equal amounts. It was a great bag day. Every thing stayed exactly in place. The ride east from Fruita, Co could not have been more pleasant. The temps started in the low 80s and remained there for some time. In the end, the temperatures ranged from 58 degrees F, to 100. The ride through different terrains kept the temps fluctuating and interesting. For riding, the temp changes proved both comfortable and downright miserable.
Riding in fifty-eight degrees F through the mountains is cold, not chilly, downright cold! It is especially cold when gusty winds blast the chilly air at you and around you. My mesh jacked wasn't made for warmth and it lived up to its "cool" design. Highest elevation encountered topped 11,000 feet (near Shrine Pass, for example). The higher we climbed, the colder the air. At times, a huge dark cloud would covered the ground. Riding under these caused a temporary drop in temperature too. These hovering clouds also made for nice contrast with the sun shimmering on the mountains White River National Forest area—freezing—but offers lots of beautiful vistas. More breath-taking views—it almost took my mind off how cold I was. Eventually, I took advantage of a rest area/overlook and changed to a warmer jacket. That, and turning on my handlebar heater, allowed me to relax and enjoy the rest of the way.
This is ski country and the area is filled with quirky shops, rentals, camping and mountain roads! Aspen, Vail, Cooper Mountain, Loveland Pass, wilderness areas—whatever your passion, it's here. Riding through canyons, tunnels, following the Colorado river, and attacking squigglies, make I-70 endlessly entertaining and spirited. The Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel, the former heads west, the later heads east, was a tad slow due to some department of transportation activity in the tunnel. Still, all the tunnels rides were fun. Lots of nice overlooks and rest areas along I-70.
I think it was somewhere around Georgetown that things turned ugly. A backup lasted forever, or so it seemed. We inched along for miles. My clutch hand was screaming. It was a challenge to stop on slanted, uneven ground. Eventually, we came upon the detritus of an accident around a bend. Police and transportation workers were busy clearing the path.
More ugliness came when I reached Denver. Chicago has some pretty intense traffic. But in Denver, the traffic around 4:20ish, was insane! Every eastbound and westbound lane was grid locked. All exits were backed up. Where I-70 and I-25 forked, the halted cars looked like a still photograph. That back up was not moving! My left hand pain returned with a vengeance. The repeated pulling and easing out the clutch for many miles left me with a throbbing palm. I had removed the stock levers because they are impossible for me to use. These Wunderlich's are a life saver but today even these babies could not save my left hand.
I called it quits in Denver. My goal was to get past Denver, like another 200ish miles out. Alas, I was beaten by traffic, and a left hand that felt as if it had been pounded repeatedly with a rubber mallet. Downtown Denver hotel prices are the highest I've encountered on the trip. Ouch!
Tuesday, September 1
Left Mesquite, NV on Monday. Made it to Colorado around 8:30pm. The day was long but fun, filled with varied weather (temps ranged from 59 degrees F to 100 degrees F) and engaging terrain. There was also lightening, thundering and rain! Where does one go when it is lightening and the nearest place "with services" is 35 miles away?! No shelter anywhere along the long, sometimes isolated stretches of I-15. Watching the lightening was quite interesting but a tad cheek clinching--if you know what I mean.
Even with all the weather variety, it was a beautiful day for riding. First time the rain gear has been used on this trip. I haven't figured out all the mileage but it was well over 500 miles. I love I-70! It has to be the prettiest, most amazing interstate! I don't know much about its construction, but it's now on my list for further research. I have taken I-70 from IL to Colorado before but picking it up from I-15 and riding it east...loved every minute of it! It is scenic, crooked, and in many places, lightly traveled. My biggest challenge was keeping my eyes on the road. Bluffs, canyons, color changes in rocks and landscape were breathtakingly distracting. I am absolutely smitten with Nevada and Utah! To my riding hero, RH, ...I take back everything I said about riding in the US versus Canada.
Took a few detours, lots of up and down roads, many long sweeping curves and twisties. Loved the overlooks and many pull outs along I-70. If you travel this way, don't miss these as they provide a nice reason to get out of the saddle and some safe areas for shutter bugging. I really enjoyed the Virgin River and Green River areas. But my most favorite (although everything was a fave) area, which I almost bypassed because it was getting late, was the ride near Moab. This ride made me dizzy with its bodacious beauty!
This detour takes you around Arches Nation Park. I left I-70 at Crescent Jct. and headed south on 191. After about 30ish miles, catch 128, which heads east. You will be riding along the Colorado River. You stay on 128 until it meets up with I-70 again. I think this ended up being about 60 plus miles altogether but it was worth the detour.
In this brief update, I can't express the sheer beauty, the overwhelming sensory experience of riding along this, sometimes tight, twisty road. This "Scenic Bypass" was the highlight of the day! When I finally returned to I-70, the sun was setting and the sky was quickly turning dark. A sign said that Grand Junction, CO was approximately 47 miles ahead.
The road was lightly traveled. It felt a bit spooky. I imagined mountain lions and bears in wait around each curve for a lone 'cyclist. I kept my speed eight miles over the limit. In the far distance, I saw red lights and kept it in my view until I touched wheels in Colorado. I was checked in and fed by 9:30ish.
Onward and upward!
Monday, August 31
Sunday was my second day of sustained riding (i.e., over 50 miles) since arriving in California. It felt good to watch the miles fly by. I left Santa Ana, CA early to meet up with an old pal who lives in Nevada. Because I was going to arrive early I decided to take my time and treat myself to breakfast—pancakes! I haven't had pancakes in ages and the I-Hop did not fail. It was a nice change from a green smoothie! I didn't know that my friend had been alerted by his sister-in-law (my Santa Ana friend) about my early arrival. Consequently, he changed his arrival time to prevent me from waiting. In the end, we both did a little waiting for each other. It was well worth it. I'll call him RH. Nevada RH is hardcore in all the good ways. He is the only individual I know who has been riding since, well, forever! That is, all the time I've known him. The husband and I met him in the late 70s (Yikes) when he was riding in Chicago. He is still riding. He has never NOT ridden! But he's changed locations many times but the one constant has been riding. RH now makes his home in the Las Vegas area, where he is able to ride year round. He rides a HD Fatboy and he let me swing my legs over it. It's a big bike—over 700lbs, shiny and replete with cool front and back accessory lights that accentuates his presence on the road. HR is ATGATT (all the gear, all the time). We had a great time chatting about bikes, rides and old times. The time was all too brief IMHO. And, his wife gave him お土産 (omiyage) to give me. Really cool Japanese writing pad, and a beautiful pink patterned cloth. どうもありがとうございました .
RH reminded me that I wanted to ride the Vegas strip. Up one side and down the other, I rode “the Strip.” It's like Chicago's Magnificent Mile and New York's Times Square, but on some serious steroids. The traffic was crazy but I had been warned. Actually, I felt right at home with the traffic. I took pictures when the light turned red as there were no safe places to pull off for a quick shot.
I had hoped to ride about 535 miles but called it quits after about 390 miles. That's another great thing about solo riding. You can change your mind on a dime and there's no one with whom to negotiate the matter. I called it quits because my eyes looked like I had been drinking and they felt like they had been massaged with sand. I could not blink away the grating feeling of each blink. My eyes were crimson with alien like veins extending outward from each pupil. I gave up in Mesquite, NV, and got a room. The eye drops started taking effect almost immediately but only after a blinding burning sensation after application.
The ride along I-15 was hot. But I've come to appreciate just how much weather is a matter of perspective, it depends on one's reference point. Ordinarily, the 90s are hot to me, but if one's reference point is 114 degrees, then 97 feels downright cool(ish). The whole way was pleasant. I so appreciated that the temps never climbed above 107 degrees. I guzzled lots of water and when I felt I'd had enough, I guzzled more.
Just as I felt called to the road, I'm hearing the call toward home. This has been the best combo vacation/research trip. Family and friends made this special. (More on them later). It may even be the best vacation I've had "alone." Ever.